Level 19, stuck forever, hating myself, rolling backward

I just want to take about two seconds to completely feel sorry for myself. I was doing great up until I took JLPT 5 (which I passed, hooray!). Then I slid a bit with studying and was still doing WaniKani every day. I’ve been busy with some other stuff so I had a few days of every other day.

My goodness I’ve rolled downhill! I’m still burning some things, but I went from 200 to 276 in my apprentice queue. It’s like I’m caught in a Kanji landslide. I usually do best if I keep it under 200, and I know I’ve been bad.

Part of it may be two things: 1) I need a teacher. I’ve gotten pretty far with self-study, but I don’t have anyone to talk to, and while you can approach JLPT like math, it doesn’t help you learn to communicate. Any suggestions? What about these $20/hr people on the internet - does that help?

And 2): I think part of the problem is that I may have passed a critical point of knowing (or not knowing) enough kanji I can’t depend on just visual recognition anymore (I’ve always thought the mnemonics were silly and tend not to use them). What other suggestions do people have to sort out visiually similar kanji? Should I be trying to write at this point? Grab a dictionary and read?

My JLPT N4 books came today, but I think I need to do something. I’ve been doing stuff like DuoLingo and iKnow and Rosetta and maybe I just need to do something more?

OK, pity party done. Back to work LOL! But any suggestions as people crested the hill of level 20 to get me past the hump are appreciated.




Only level 10 but just dropped by to say…


For similar kanji you can use my userscript:

It’s good just to see them together and focus on the differences. I believe that the more cross-connections between kanji you make, the easier it gets, so try to see as many angles as possible.

I can also recommend my other script as a “shortcut” for readings.


I started using the Iversen method of writing out the radicals and kanji with their meanings (and reading for kanji) when I reached level 11 after looking ahead and realising things were going to be getting complicated on the visual front. If you learn / remember better from writing things down, then it may help you.

And like you, I had not focused as much as I should have on the radicals, but you really need to get them down pat to be able to write out the kanji from memory (I’ve had to tweak or completely rewrite a few mnemonics to remember the correct order).

It does take more time, but that is then time saved by being more accurate in my reviews.


I’m in something of the same boat in terms of having passed the JLPT N5, but was unsure where to go from there for studying/practice so that I’d be able to actually use the language and not just be able to pass a multiple choice test on it. I’ve started taking some lessons once a week on iTalki with a teacher, which isn’t the cheapest thing in the world, but I’m finding it helpful in that I get to practice making sentences with different grammar structures, having a chance to ask about how words are really used, and speaking practice as well. Might be something to look in to?


I agree with @acm2010 and @Rowena, focusing on the individual components of the kanji (so, the radicals) is the way forward.

The main problem is that the brain likes to take shortcuts. When you first learned a kanji relying on recognition only, your brain didn’t store the complete picture, but just the minimal set of differences with other things you have learned so far. Problem: similar looking kanji will then end up with the same mental picture.
Example: versus (my number one leeches for years) Same overall shape, so if you didn’t remember the radical at the bottom right, you won’t be able to distinguish between them.

So, mostly two approaches (aside from just using the mnemonics)

  • Looking specifically for differences helps finding out the rest of the information you need to store. (@acm2010’s method)
  • Kanji production from memory, since you cannot write them if you don’t remember all parts. (See for instance the method @Rowena linked to, or maybe KaniWani, but first writing down the kanjis before answering)

I can relate. That happened to me every time I successfully passed a JLPT exam. A failed exam didn’t impact my study so much, since I mostly got in the mood to try it again 6 months later, but success feels like I deserve a break.


In terms of the “kanji landslide” just hold back on new lessons until your apprentice items get under 100 and when you do take on more lessons, don’t do all of them all at once.
I think it’s better to go slower and remember more.


I’ve been doing iTalki lessons for over a year with these 2 tutors:

I really like both of them, and my level is still increasing - vocab, grammar, fluency, even kanji. :slight_smile:

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I wish you all the best, but have no useful advice considering I’ve been stuck at level 11 since October and, while I’m doing my reviews, I just seem to be cycling items up to enlightened, only to fail them all the way back to apprentice when they come back around. My backlog never gets that big, sometimes close to 100 but not more, but there are times I find the failures too depressing to get it back to zero. So…well…hugz fellow struggler.

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If you need someone to talk to you could try the English-Japanese Language Exchange discord. English-Japanese Language Exchange

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I pepper my lessons through out the week. Get all of the radicals in immediately, then a few kanji. Each day I do more lessons, that way by the time I’m guruing my radicals, I don’t have any lessons left and it’s time to start the new kanji and start guruing the first kanjis and start those vocab. So, constantly doing a few lessons, but never inundated by 100 new items at a time.


Try using Hellotalk for conversation practice. Also HiNative (but I don’t personally like it). I’ve only heard good things about iTalki, but you’ll have to ask around for good teachers.

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I also feel as though I’ll be stuck forever at level 19. Been here for months even though all previous levels were 8 days or less. I don’t even want to bring up the stats page because it will hurt my heart to see that bar graph. :sweat:

But… the fact of the matter is, I have other priorities that are taking precedence over WK for now and you know what I realized? That’s okay. I’ll get back to my regular pace eventually and make it to that sweet sweet golden circle next to my name.


Thank you all for the encouragement! I finally made it to 20, but work took me out of things for like 3 weeks. OMG. Finally, finally, FINALLY caught up, but now I have this horrendous backslide of 365 apprentice level words (yes, that is probably a horrible as it sounds). I think if I’m just diligent for even 3-4 days that will be under 200 again, because they’ll all guru back, but boy do I feel dumb.

In other news, DID pass the JLPT N5 (woo hoo!). Italki sounds like a good idea.


I think you should be keeping apprentice below or close to 100; at least, it’s made my experience go by much smoother (and faster).


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